St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious feast day for Ireland’s patron saint. Today, it’s all about celebrating the Emerald Isle and its people: the culture, the history, the cuisine…Kelly green.
Given the current discussion about undocumented immigrants and the hostility and fear that some powerful people are stirring, I’ve been reflecting, also, on the Irish as migrants to America who made us richer becauseof all the things that make their culture unique.
But did we always appreciate how much depth and texture they added to the American story? No. When the Great Potato Famine drove hundreds of thousands of poor, uneducated Irish Catholics to these shores beginning in 1845, they were not celebrated. They were despised.
Although there’s been some debate about the prevalence of “No Irish Need Apply” signs in storefronts and other businesses, it is a fact that the Irish faced discrimination in hiring and housing. (Just listen to this song by the folk music quartet, The Weavers.) “Americans,” many of whom were only recent immigrants themselves, used their newly gained status and power to ostracize the newcomers who didn’t talk the way they did and observed unfamiliar customs, whose style of worship was not in keeping with what true “Americans” did. They needed to feel superior to someone and the Irish were an easy scapegoat.
Here we go again. This disturbingly familiar cycle goes like this: We initially fear those we don’t know. Egged on by cynical politicians, we blame them for what’s not right in our lives. But when we dare to stand up to the fear-mongering, we reach out and discover hopes and dreams very much like our own. We find common themes, and we come to respect and accept our differences rather than attempting to keep these “others” out or to make them copies of ourselves.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “othering” and about the Irish American experience as it relates to the journey of the 11 million undocumented immigrants and the DREAMers in our nation today. I’ve been thinking of the parents who have risked everything to get here, escaping hardships we can’t imagine. The children raised by relatives because their parents cannot make the journey, or have been deported. The students who now sit in privatized detention centers, where private prison chains make millions on keeping undocumented non-criminals behind bars for as long as possible, instead of classrooms.
And I wonder: Is this the America that the Irish immigrants envisioned 172 years ago?
It’s become a bit trite to say that President Trump, Steve Bannon and those who share their ideology want to build walls instead of bridges. (Exhibits A-Z: The travel (Muslim) ban, immigration raids, expanded deportation policies, the rhetoric, etc.) But just because we hear it over and over again, doesn’t make it is any less harmful. And whether or not the walls are ever built, what they are actually doing may be even worse than constructing a literal barrier.
They’ve begun to succeed at Balkanizing us emotionally through pitting groups against each other and finding bogeymen to exploit. They hope to keep us distracted from the power we could have by standing together. They hope we won’t notice TrumpCare in which the richest get a tax break and the middle class and elderly get the St. Patrick's Day and today's immigrants - Lily's Blackboard:
Later this week, I’ll be hanging out with some of the most inspiring, dedicated educators I know. People likeJudy Olson, who teaches English composition at California State University Los Angeles and chairs NEA’s Contingent Faculty Caucus. AndLoretta Ragsdell, an adjunct professor at the City Colleges of Chicago and president of the union.
The 2017 NEA Higher Education Conference, March 17-19 in Dallas, will bring Judy, Loretta, and many other higher ed members of NEA together to delve into crucial issues, including the rise in part-time, adjunct and contingent faculty, and what it means for academia.
These people live for higher ed. Too bad higher ed doesn’t give them much to live on.
Part-time, adjunct and contingent faculty members—more likely to be women, by the way—account for more than 70 percent of faculty in higher ed. Many are so underpaid they have to rely on food stamps and other public assistance.
The trend in part-time and contingent faculty is one sign of the corporatization of higher education. This model provides a simple recipe for higher ed: First you standardize it, then you privatize it and then you deprofessionalize it. Under this model, colleges view faculty members as warm bodies who can teach a class rather than experts who are devoted to their subjects and to their pedagogy, as well as advising and mentoring students.
Commodifying professionals in this way means hiring part-timers make perfect sense; colleges can pay them less and provide few-to-zero benefits and get more “bang for the buck”—or at least that’s what they believe. Tenure? No way. Academic freedom? Forget about it. And without job security, it’s harder for instructors to participate in debate about controversial issues such as climate change, health care reform and immigration.
And yet, without part-time faculty members, campuses would shut down in a heartbeat. After all, they keep the doors open. That’s partly because they spend so much time running from campus to campus and building to building, patching together one full-time job with two or three part-time teaching posts. When they leave their classrooms at the end of the academic year, they’re not even sure if they’ll return.